10:13 AM

Making the Hospital "Bear"able

Volunteers create "comfort creatures" for young patients

Admittedly, spending time in a hospital can cause some anxiety for any patient, no matter what your age. For children, however, aside from not feeling well, being poked and prodded by unknown doctors and nurses can be downright scary.

To help ease that fear, the Pastoral Care department of OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center, with the help from the OSF Foundation, started a teddy bear program more than 20 years ago. 

Sporting an OSF t-shirt, the cuddly companions have been adopted by thousands of patients over the years and are used across the medical center. Orthopedic Technician, Robin McElroy, says they are particularly valuable assistants in the emergency room.

"The anxiety and the fear. They don't feel good or they're injured. It's just a really nice way to give them somthing to hang onto", says McElroy. And gives us something to kind of break the ice". 

Robin McElroy

But, as with any helpers around a hospital, you can't have too many special care givers. And it's no different with the teddy bears. 

Bill Dixon has been a volunteer at Saint Anthony for nearly 11 years, primarily working in the emergnecy department. He knows first hand the magic the bears bring to an apprehensive young patient.

"Something to cuddle. Something small enough to cuddle and hold and squeeze and just hang onto", says Dixon. It really helps. So, we've been using teddy bears for a long time".

Bill Dixon

Wanting to make sure every patient who needed one had a bear to hold, Bill recruitied his wife of 51 years, Mary. She belongs to a sewing ministry at Rockford's Saint Rita Catholic Church.  

"They've made the template. They've cut the material", says Dixon. They needed stuffers, so I'm not a sewer, but I can stuff. So, I went and stuffed. And, it's kind of going to be an on-going thing".

Mary Dixon

The first two dozen bears were recently delivered and the sewing ministry plans to make about 60 annually. 

For staff chaplain Rene Escalante that just means more comfort and love for as many patients who need the snuggling security only a teddy bear can bring. 

"I work on the critical care unit and the neuro intensive care unit", says Escalante. And when you experience, you know, brokeness or hardship, sometimes these things are very helpful".

Rene Escalante